In the Middle Ages and the early modern era, Braunschweig, which lay at the intersection of important long-distance trade routes, had around 20,000 inhabitants. It was, besides Lübeck, Hamburg and Bremen, one of the largest cities in Northern Germany and was at that time already a significant trading and commercial centre. The development of Braunschweig into a city of national importance was encouraged in the 12th and 13th centuries in particular by Duke Henry the Lion and Emperor Otto IV. From the mid-13th century, the Braunschweig citizens were successful in acquiring numerous rights for their city which, as a result, was able to call itself a free city as early as the mid-14th century.
Intense relationships with numerous other Hanseatic cities are verifiable from the 13th century onwards. Even at this early time, Braunschweig merchants were already active in Denmark, England, Russia, Flanders and on Gotland. In contrast to the majority of the maritime cities, however, Braunschweig was not purely a trading city but was instead also a significant business location, where cloth, metal goods and weapons were of particular importance. One notably esteemed product was the Braunschweiger Mumme, a particularly durable beer whose sale was first documented in 1390.
Over the centuries, the City of Braunschweig was actively involved in the politics of the Hanseatic League. Emissaries of the city were involved in numerous Hanseatic Days from 1356 onwards. In 1427, a Hanseatic Day took place in Braunschweig which was visited by many cities. At that time, a major topic was support for the City of Lübeck, which was in a conflict with the Danish King Erich of Pomerania. In the 14th and 15th centuries, the Braunschweig citizens utilised numerous alliances within the Saxon League of Towns and the Hanseatic League in order to secure their economic interests. Due to its prominent importance, in 1494 Braunschweig became a suburb of the Saxon district of the Hanseatic League. Representatives from the City of Braunschweig also participated at the final Hanseatic Day, which took place in Lübeck in 1669.
From the late 15th century, there were increasing numbers of conflicts with the Braunschweig dukes, who made several attempts to subdue the independent city. The Braunschweig citizens, however, managed to successfully fend off these attacks on the independence of their city into the 17th century. In this context, the financial, diplomatic and military support through other Hanseatic League cities played an important role on a number of occasions. Finally, the city was no longer able to defend itself against the superior strength of the princes and in 1671, it lost its independence. The Hanseatic City of Braunschweig was history. The Altstadtrathaus (Old Town Hall), the Gewandhaus (Cloth Hall), the (reconstructed) Alte Waage (weighing station), the municipal parish churches and various town houses remain as stone testimonies to this era of the city‘s history.
For the City of Braunschweig, the fostering of its Hanseatic tradition has remained an affair of the heart until this day. The City of Braunschweig is therefore engaged in the international Hanseatic League of modern times and supports the objective of keeping the Hanseatic League alive as a community of life and culture of the towns. In 2027, Braunschweig will host the international Hanseatic Day.